, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 51-61

Infant care, infanticide, and female reproductive strategies in polygynous groups of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)

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Abstract

Reproduction in marmoset and tamarin groups is typically restricted to a single dominant female, but it is unclear why subordinate females tolerate delayed reproduction. The presence of two breeding females in free-ranging groups of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) presented a unique opportunity to examine differences in the reproductive strategies of dominant and subordinate females. Three groups were monitored for 12–18 months at a forest reserve in northeastern Brazil. Data on infant care were collected during two consecutive all-day follows every 10 days until the infants were 2 months old. Carrying patterns for infants born to dominant females were similar to those observed in groups containing a single breeding female. All group members over 5 months of age participated in infant care, and dominant females allowed some group members to carry their infants from the 1 st day of life. In contrast, subordinate females were protective of their offspring and were their sole caretakers for at least a week following birth. One infant born to a subordinate was killed in an attack involving the dominant female. Overall, dominant females gave birth to more infants and had higher infant survival than did subordinate breeding females. subordinate females were successful in rearing young only when the timing of births was such that they did not overlap with the dependency period of infants born to the dominant female. These patterns suggest that subordinate females may face resource competition, especially over access to helpers. In times of severe competition, subordinate females that delay reproduction may be avoiding a wasted reproductive effort.

Communicated by P.M. Kappeler